Eight apple varieties you should be baking with this holiday season
The content of 'Eight apple varieties you should be baking with this holiday season' was prepared by Katherine Sacks at FoodPrint and has been revised and republished by FreshFruitPortal.com.
In the age-old battle of Granny Smith versus Honeycrisp, what if the answer is neither?
The world of apples is so much more complex than the few varieties generally found in grocery stores: apples are the third most commonly grown fruit in the world, after bananas and grapes, grown commercially in 35 states in the US and found in orchards from Alaska to Florida.
With more than 7,500 known varieties, the range of flavors, textures and aromas of apples are infinitely varied.
In “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” Amy Traverso writes “Apple varieties are as individual as people, with their own quirky flavors and textures and strengths and behavioral issues.” She identifies 70 great varieties for eating and cooking with.
Tom Burford’s “Apples of North America” offers suggestions for nearly 200 heirloom and modern varieties. Using the advice of these experts, among others, we have recommendations for some of the most flavorful apples to look out for at farmers’ markets, farmstands and well-stocked grocers this fall.
How to Tell If an Apple Is Fresh and Other Apple Shopping Advice
How can you tell if an apple is still fresh if you don’t cut into it?
Ripe apples should feel firm and have a mild aroma; any strong, banana-like aroma, or softness when touched, indicates the fruit is overripe.
Many apples can be stored at home for several months under the right conditions: place them in a paper bag or plastic bag with a few holes, in a cool, dark place.
Unless you are purchasing apples at the height of the season, apples will likely be cold stored in cellars, barns or other dark, cool places.
However, apples that are stored long-term by industrial producers and sold in grocery stores — and are often exposed to a synthetic gas that stops their ripening — may not develop the nuanced flavor and vibrancy of apples stored without gas.
Which Apple Varieties Are Best For Pie And Other Uses
It seems like no matter how many apple pies one bakes, it’s impossible to remember which kind is best for baking versus eating out of hand.
But for every fond apple memory you have — a pie baking, apple sauce simmering on the stovetop, or even cider being pressed — there’s an apple variety that goes best with that preparation.
Luckily, there are many varieties of apples that make a good pie. A general rule of thumb is to bake with a mixture of firm-sweet and firm-tart apples.
Among others, Burford recommends Arkansas Black, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Goldrush, Northern Spy, Roxbury Russet and Winesap for making pie. Traverso likes using Northern Spy, Sierra Beauty, and Esopus Spitzenburg for tartness, and Baldwin, Golden Delicious, Jazz, and Jonagold for sweetness.
Apples with a distinctive flavor, ideal for highlighting on cheese or fruit plates, include the cardamom-like spice of Granite Beauty, Mother apple (with a distinctive balsamic flavor), and pineapple-scented Hawaii apple.
8 Apple Varieties to Look For
The list of which apple varieties to look for could go on and on.
What you find will greatly depend on what’s in season near you, and where you shop. These varieties are among those seen more regularly at farmers’ markets, broadening the spectrum of apples available beyond the traditional flavors.
Check this chart for more of the commonly available apples, along with seasonality and cooking tips.
An heirloom variety first grown in Benton, Arkansas, this apple thrives in warmer climates, which means you’ll find it in orchards throughout the Southeastern and western states and California. It has deep red skin, which turns purple-black and sweeter the longer it is stored.Traverso describes the apple as “aromatic like a Gala, but with enough acidity to keep it lively, and a cherry-spice finish.”
When picked in season, between October and November, Arkansas Black apples are firm, crisp and moderately juicy. Use this apple for desserts (especially pies), frying, apple butter and cider.
Cox's Orange Pippin
This tender-sweet apple is delicious when used fresh, but is also beloved in apple crisps or other baked preparations.
A British variety, it is a medium-sized apple with yellow skin that is streaked with orange and red patches.
Traverso describes its flavor as “citrusy and almost tropical-tasting, with pear aromas.” It is grown throughout the East Coast, Midwest and Northern California. This apple is good for desserts, especially in baked goods, frying and cider.
This apple’s fantastic name is reason enough to recommend it, but Traverso’s rave review is an even better one: “This apple has so many layers of flavor that it really is extraordinary when eaten fresh or when used to make hard or sweet cider,” she writes. “However, it holds up well enough in baking to qualify as a firm apple, and I’d use it in desserts like the Crêpes Filled with Caramelized Apples, the Dutch Baby, or the Swedish Apple Pie.”
Famous for being one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apples, the Spitzenburg, also called Spitz, is popular among heirloom apple aficionados.
It’s a juicy medium-sized apple that varies in color from orange-red to bright red with dark red stripes to purplish-red and has a hard and crisp bite with floral, citrusy and tropical aromas.
This variety ripens from September to mid-October, but stores well through the winter (Traverso suggests using it for holiday desserts), and can be found at farmers’ markets in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and Northern California.
If you like Golden Delicious apples, try Goldrush. “The Goldrush takes all the great cooking qualities of its Golden Delicious parent and adds loads of bright, citrusy flavor,” writes Traverso. “I especially like it in spiced, baked desserts like apple crisps.”
Developed by the Perdue University Horticulture Research Farm, the Goldrush cultivar combines the traits of Golden Delicious, Melrose and Rome Beauty apples, among others.
You’ll find it at farmers’ markets and u-pick orchards throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. It ripens in October/November and keeps its firm texture, crisp bite and sweet-tart, slightly spicy flavor in storage for six to seven months.
And if you are looking to make cider, Goldrush, along with Winesap, Golden Russet and Baldwin, are ideal varieties.
Despite the dull-yellow to brownish skin of Hidden Rose, give this apple another look. Also called Airlie Red Flesh, it gets its name from its pretty, bright pink flesh, which offers berry flavors and candy apple aromas.
This variety is often eaten fresh to appreciate its inner coloring, but the firm-tart apple also works well in baked goods; Traverso suggests substituting it for Gravenstein apples in tarts.
Native to Oregon, the Hidden Rose is most often found in the Pacific Northwest but can be found in the Midwest, Massachusetts and England.
Other pink- or red-fleshed apples include Pink Pearl, native to Northern California, and Redfield, a popular cider apple that can be found in farmers’ markets in the Northeast.
If you’re a fan of the grocery store regulars Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp, try out Jonagold.
Traverso says it makes a better pie apple than Golden Delicious and is a great, less expensive alternative to Honeycrisp.
A sweet apple, Jonagold has honey and melon aromas with tender, juicy flesh. New England Association’s Powell describes the apple as “explosively crisp and juicy, similar to Honeycrisp but with more apple flavor.”
The variety is sensitive to sunburn — the skin is orange when grown in warmer climates and red in cooler ones — but is grown throughout the country and is sold at supermarkets and farmers’ markets accordingly. This is a good apple for pie making, frying and cider.
Often called the best pie apple, this firm-tart variety is much loved, especially in cooler climates, including New England, the Upper Midwest and Ontario, where it thrives especially well.
Northern Spy apples can be found at supermarkets, but you’ll have your best luck at farmers’ markets and u-pick orchards.
The cream-colored flesh has hints of strawberry and pear flavors and will stay firm when sliced after being baked, making it ideal for cooking.
The RubyFrost is a newer variety bred at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and released to the market in 2013.
It’s an ultra-juicy, ultra-crisp apple with a winey, somewhat vegetal, cidery aroma. RubyFrost doesn’t brown when left out, making it perfect for salads or other sliced preparations, but this variety also works well in baked recipes.
You might also be interested in
A guide to pruning and training apple trees
What to consider when planning an agricultural drainage system
A guide to soil testing on fruit and vegetable farms
What's wrong with my plant? Blueberry stems and branches
Tissue and soil nutrient testing for cold climate grapes
What you need to know about the avocado lace bug
Control, management of thrips on California grapevines
AirBattery: A new way to store renewable energy